Flying Blind

But flying all the same

Category: Life Updates

Me? A Farmer?

I have spent several weeks on vacation and it has been great.  I have been able to reconnect with my kids and my wife and have recovered a lot of my sanity.  I like to take time and think about where I have been, what I have done, read, seen, and who I have become every now and then.  These last few years have been pretty rough and I haven’t really been in a position to spend a lot of time thinking.  Thankfully I was able to do that during this vacation too.

Funny enough… my heart seems to be drawn to farming.  I’ve kicked that idea around before, but really just as a daydream, kill some time, “wouldn’t it be fun if…” kind of thoughts.  I readily recognize that those thoughts are very romanticized and not an accurate depiction of what that life would look like.

I want to share my current thoughts with y’all.

Talents and Gifts

I think that I am a charismatic person, communicate well, establish healthy team cultures, teach well, and lead well.  I really enjoy meeting with people and talking about life.  I enjoy sharing my life with people and encouraging them through hard times or helping them put the broken pieces of their hearts back together.  The vision of my life is that I will live to see the broken hearts bound up, the wounded healed, and the captives set free.  I have poured my heart and soul into this vision and have seen some really cool things in the lives of other people.  Jessica and I have seen infidelity in marriages be replaced with tenderness and genuine love between husband and wife.  We have seen men who were abused as kids, harboring anger and ill will towards their abusers, gain the ability to forgive their abusers, let go of their bitterness, find healing, and develop healthy relationships with those around them.  Jesus has brought me into people’s lives and given me the gifts needed to see so many people helped.

I am concerned that, should I actually start farming, I will no longer be able to invest these gifts as I would like.  All of those things involved people.  Lots of time with people.  I wonder how much time I will actually have with people if we end up moving to a farm after retirement.  I don’t know if I am ready to let go of what I thought the future investments of my life would look like.

Leisure and Adventure

I really love being deep in the wilderness.  By far my favorite hobby is hunting.  Not from a tree stand over a food plot, but after getting deep into the mountains and glassing hillsides and valleys.  I have always pictured my future being one in which we live a suburban life, almost constant contact with people, with relatively long breaks of wilderness time for me.  Camping trips with the family for a week at a time, road trips across a state or 2 to go hunting and fishing with a couple of guys, drive half way across the country to canoe or kayak some epic river.

I am concerned that with a farm, I will not be able to have these adventures.  The farm work must go on.  I know this is probably not that big of a deal, but in my head, the planner that I am, it is a concern on the list.  Who will watch the farm, milk the cows, feed the chickens and hogs, while I am out gallivanting around the wilderness?  How will I afford these trips?  It isn’t a secret… Farming is not a great money making enterprise!   The kind of farming I am thinking about… even less so.  I don’t know if I am read to give up what my future adventures would look like.

Family and Friends

The lines between family and friends for Team Hitefield have been blurred for Jessica and I so many times.  I have driven myself to the edge of tears while contemplating where we will live.  I have no “roots”.  I was born in one place, raised across several states, crossed the major milestones of my development and honed my identity literally around the world.  Those who hold the strings which weave the very fabric of my being are stretched from California to Washington, from Maine to Florida.   How can I possibly commit to owning a piece of land and a group of structures that will keep me permanently tied to a single spot.  Simultaneously basking in the warmth of deepening relationships with those who are near us while being parched by the distance from those far away.  Having grown accustomed to moving and making epic cross country road trips every couple  years, I don’t know if I am ready to give up the relationships which have been placed on hold.

Farming, as Jessica and I think about it, is so vastly different from anything we have ever thought about or planned before.  Living in town, working as a counselor, leading small groups and teams of volunteers in the community, and drifting from place to place was a comforting blanket for me.  The idea of picking a spot on the ground, raising a house, and plunging my roots feels cold.

… and is maddeningly exciting.

We may not do this at all.  But it is very much a stir in my heart at the moment.

I will write again in a few days and post the ideas that Jessica and I have about the farm itself.  We have already gotten the question, “What kind of farm”  and “What will you be farming” several times.  This next post will explain all of that.

I Found My Max Capacity

I was frustrated.

I was angry.

I was moving away from Washington State.  I had developed some really intimate relationships with some of the men I met up there and had started meeting with them at least once a week.  I was spending close to 8 hours per man each week praying for them, studying with them, counseling them, challenging them… shepherding them.

I had prayed for a long time that God would send a replacement for me or that He would develop one of them to step in and start shepherding that little flock in my place after I left.

It didn’t happen.

A couple weeks before we left Washington, I heard that another fella who is a part of the same ministry team that I am a part of was moving into the area.  I was excited to say the least.  I then found out that he had no plans of connecting with our little posse… he had no plans to lead it, to shepherd it, or to even meet with it.

In my frustration, I called the head guy for our team and expressed to him my frustration.  The team leader’s response was pretty simple…

This man will be working a very specific and demanding job while

in Washington and simply does not have the capacity right now to

be involved.  I’m sorry.

I was dumbfounded.

He doesn’t have the capacity?

What a poor excuse!

The team leader tried to explain to me that not everybody is capable of the same amount of stress, or relational tenacity, or multitasking agility.  It was so hard for me to understand.  I kept thinking that if I could do it, while being a husband, a father of 4, and a Sailor, surely this fella could do it.

Fast forward a year and a half.  A long, painful, cold, and dark year and a half.

I have been in school for a long time.  I was dropped from my original class and placed in the class behind me… akin to repeating the 3rd grade.  While going to school, I had a handful of “distractors” stack up in my personal life.  To name a few, and just a few, my grandpa passed away last Thanksgiving, my brother had a tumor removed, was diagnosed with cancer, and started chemo, we went through an eviction proceeding following a long period of no income on our rental home in NC, and have been the recipients of a lawsuit threat from an employee of a real estate company.

It all finally stacked up against me.  Between the rough relationships in my extended family and me feeling like I have a responsibility to mend them, the loss my family has suffered, the strained (but healing) relationships between my wife and I (and my kids and I), and the lack of local friends (because I was too busy with school, there are good people here who care about me)… I cracked.

I would sit before my open books, read the same line a hundred times, and be consumed with thoughts that I was neglecting my family.  I would close my books and go see my family but my heart wasn’t there.  I would hear in the back of my mind that I was wasting the taxpayers dollar, that my family is doing just fine and that I need to do what I have been chosen to do… study and do well in school so that I can go forward and do great things on behalf of the US Navy.  This cycle continued until I started to feel simply paralyzed.

I would sit in front of my books and just stare at them.

I would stand in my yard with my kids playing around me and just stare at them.

I went in to take a test a couple weeks ago and failed it.  I needed a 75 and I earned a 74.  A weak 74 at that… tons of guessing!

This test fail triggered an academic investigation.  I told the investigating board all of what was going on in my home life.

The end result?

I have been dismissed from training.

Not for a lack of trying.  Not for a lack of intellectual ability.  Not for a lack of time management or failure to prioritize.  But for a lack of capacity.

I had in my head that being capable of succeeding was directly related to my ability to perform when the time came.  I now understand that life isn’t just about performing when the time comes.  There is a lot of life that happens behind the scenes, when the curtain is down and the seats are empty.

I do not live in a vacuum and I cannot continue to ask my family to wait for me.  As life has gotten a little thicker, a little more tricky, I have come to understand that I do not have the capacity to do what I wanted.

I am okay with this.

I am becoming very happy with this.

I was frustrated and angry before because I had no concept of somebody knowing where the edges of their envelope existed and choosing to stay within those boundaries.  I am sorry for the way that I reacted to that situation (and I will get in touch with the parties involved in order to communicate that).

I now know what it feels like to be stretched beyond my capacity and I see the damage that that causes to me and my family.  I also now recognize what it feels like to approach the limit of my capabilities.

I had a friend in Washington, a man I met with from time to time who coached me as a husband, a father, and a young shepherd.  He would tell me often that I needed to learn to say no.  He would tell me that he was afraid that I did not know where my boundaries were and that I was on a crash course for taking on more than I should and potentially causing great harm to myself and my family.

Rob, if you are reading this, you were right!  I was on that train.  I was not over committed in Washington, but I quickly ran out of space out here.  By the grace of GodI did not cause great harm to me or my family.

I have learned what my limits are and , more importantnly what ifeels like to reach them.

I found my max capacity and I managed to get off that train before it wrecked my life.

Thank you to all the friends and family who have supported us, encouraged us, and prayed for us as we walked through this part of our journey.

Call It What It Is… Fail

Fail

I don’t know if ever I have come across a word as painful, demoralizing, or heavy to me as this one.

Fail

It doesn’t hurt when it is being used in the typical pop culture manner of the word, but when bestowed upon me as a reward for my actions not meeting the requisite standard…  Sigh…

And fail I did.

I have had many people who care about me try to soften the blow.  I have had some very encouraging people attempt to encourage me by saying things like, “If you did your best, its not a fail,” and “Your wife and kids still love you, you didn’t fail.”  There were a good number of these kinds of statements being sent to me.  On the one hand, I really appreciated them.  They made me feel good for a moment.

On the other hand, they were frustrating to a deep level.

I felt as though the encouragement that was being given to me was a dismissal of what had happened, a denial of the facts, an enticement to live contrary to reality.

And so I write this now…  I’m calling it what it is.

It is a fail.

I failed to meet the minimum requirements to move forward with my training.  I failed to accumulate the required minimum number of points on a battery of patient scenarios.  I failed to perform my job in a manner commensurate with the predetermined standard which was required of me.  This is the simple reality and truth of the matter.  There was a standard.   I did not attain it.  Fail.

I understand what these encouragers were communicating to me.  I am not a failure.  I felt like one.  The weekend after I got the news, I walked around in a strange fog of disbelief.

It is humiliating.  It is painful for me.  I am heavy hitter, a hot runner.  I have been ” they guy that gets things done” for a long time.  For me to engage in something this difficult and not succeed is a foreign concept.

I spent a lot of time thinking about failure and how it is handled by the folks around me.  I think we need to adjust fire.

I had some folks tell me they were sorry that I failed, that they had faith in my ability to pass, and that they hoped I would get back to the plate and start swinging again.  This is the healthy approach.

We cannot redefine a word when we don’t like how it makes us feel.  We do not have the ability to redefine the standards placed upon us after we have committed to the task.  We do not have the luxury of walking through life sans consequences.  We had better not communicate to those around us that we believe we can do these things.

I have started to wonder… how many times have I redefined something in my life, or in the lives of those around me, because the truth was too bitter to swallow.  Have I looked at a friend and told him that what he was doing is healthy, appropriate, just, wise, or even “not that bad”, when in fact it is unhealthy, inappropriate, unjust, unwise, or quite frankly “bad”?  Has this quickness to redefine what is offensive so that I don’t have to really deal with the source of offense stretched into my beliefs?  Or rather, have my beliefs failed to stretch into my daily interactions with others to such an extent that I believe that I am the authority who decides what is a fail, a pass, wise, just, unjust, good, bad, etc., without really understanding that that is what I am doing?

I am not the one to determine a fail.  I simply perform.

Those who wrote the course, set the objectives, presented the material, and evaluated my performance are the appropriate judges.  It is on their shoulders to define the fail.

Likewise, it is not me who determines what is right or wrong, just or unjust, fair or unfair.  I simply discern what I see.

The Author of all life is the one who wrote the course of my life, set the objectives, determined my purpose, presented me with the resources required, and is the only appropriate Judge who determines what is right or wrong, just or unjust, righteous and unrighteous, pure and holy, or sin and…  well… fail.

Another thing I got to think about was my struggle with “failure.”  I fought, off and on, with feeling like a failure for years.  I had such a ridiculous, strict, narrow view of success that practically everything I did failed to measure up.  I would recall all the things I “failed” at and would feel as though nothing I did was good enough.  I really felt as though I was a failure.  Interestingly enough it took a legitimate fail for me to see that I have not legitimately failed at much of anything in my past.  I know it is ironic, but a couple weeks after my first fail and I am realizing how awesome I have been in this game of life!   (feel free to roll your eyes)

In summary, I failed and I  want to call it a fail.  Calling it a fail is not the same as calling me a failure.  Saying I did not fail is redefining reality and calling “bad” “good”.  I am simply the one who failed.  After getting the bad news, the Navy went through the required procedure and, in the end, decided to send me back to the beginning of the course with another class.  I hear repeating the 8th grade isn’t so bad…

 

Confidence or Something Else?

If you would have asked me about my confidence a year ago today, I would have told you that, though I come across as being very confident, I am really not.  I felt as though I was lost in a cloud, flying blind, a lot of the time (and still feel this way a lot).  I would make decisions and if they went poorly, I reacted very badly.  I tended to pour anger and frustration all around me because I felt as though I was not capable, or was not ready to be in the positions in which I found myself.

Ask me now about my confidence and I will tell you with great assurance that I am no longer as confident as I used to be!  I will also tell you that it is okay.

My parents, in-laws, wife, and kids can all tell you about times that things have not turned out the way I had hoped they would because of a simple mistake or oversight on my behalf, and how I feel as though I have failed at so many things.  Having come to this school, I have been placed in some very difficult positions.  The pace is so quick, the requirements so strict, the instructors so demanding, I have been forced to start pushing the envelope which contains my sense of “everything will be okay.”

Everything will in fact NOT be okay.

I am going to fail and I am going to screw stuff up.

I have been told by past leaders that I am a leader, that the bar I set for my peers is pretty high, and that I outperform those around me.  I never saw that.  I saw that other people would get worked up a lot more about the requirements, would work harder at their tasks than me, and would spend more time getting their tasks accomplished than I would.  My perspective was that they were better equipped and more motivated to succeed than I was, that they understood what was going on better than I did, yet somehow my leadership, and those working around me, started to rely on me as the “go to guy” for things that involved me.  I was so afraid of screwing up what I was working on, that I never pulled the trigger on a project or task until I was absolutely, positively, 100% sure that the task was complete and met the standard.  By the time I executed my task, I felt absolutely confident that it was right…  but I would not act until then.  This did not breed in me a sense of confidence though, it simply created a sense of focus, speed, and intensity in me that caused me to work my tasks faster than those around me.  While they were still unsure of what to do, I had finished my work and called the shot… confidence in my ability or quickness to finish because of a lack of confidence in my environment?

I would stay at work until 3 AM working on some tasks.  Think about that!  I would do almost 2 days work at night while my peers were home asleep because I was afraid I was going to miss a deadline or turn in a job that was incomplete.  My “confidence” was purely fueled by a true lack of confidence.

I do not have the time or resources to work my current tasks until they are absolutely 100% complete.  I am having to turn things in, run reports, finish tasks when I am mostly sure they are okay.  That is a long way from 100% complete and correct.  I am turning things in that meet the standard but require some correction instead of turning in perfection.

Having worked for so long in an environment where my work was pretty close to perfect, turning in things that simply meet the requirement is really hard.

It got even worse this month.  So far I have failed 1 test (made a mighty 64 on it), and have had to redo one of my tasks 7 times before it met the standard!  Talk about a death blow to my paradigm of confidence.  In the midst of the rework, I had the privilege of writing lines like I was back in middle school in order to correct one of my deficiencies.  I am faced with a Gastrointestinal lab, Head/Ears/Eyes/Nose/Throat (HEENT) lab, Cardiovascular exam, and HEENT exam all stacked up next week.

Guess what… my world did not come to an end.  I have royally screwed up several things this month now that I am having to perform on a much higher level than I have in the past and it is okay.

I don’t feel as though I have clearly communicated what I am feeling…  let me summarize like this…

I was so afraid of failing and having other people see me how I see me that I worked really REALLY hard to make sure everything I did was absolutely spot on.

Now I am in an environment where I cannot do what I used to do.

I was super afraid that I would drop the ball and the people around me would see me for the fraud that I so often feel I am.

I dropped the ball… I dropped it many times!

The people around me, family, friends, co-workers, leaders, looked at me, gave their advice/criticism, and moved on.

I had to do a lot of work because everything is not okay.

Apparently that is life…

And I really am okay!

Confidence is a thing of irony for me now.

What others may see in me and call confidence is really just me learning how to fail, recover well, and live with the grace and mercy that has been given to me.

Everything in life is not okay, but with grace, I can be.

…  So Joey, when you ask how I am doing, and I say, “I’m doing really well” and you say, “Awesome… I would like to hear why you are doing well…”… well…  this is why.

Thanks for asking!

 

Of Pancakes and Chocolate Milk

Hours spent at breakfast with my oldest daughter… 90 (or so)

Dollars spent on donuts, coffee, hot choclate, pancakes, and muffins… $1170.00

Moments of significant depth and connection from one soul to another… 1

Totally Worth It!!

I have been taking my oldest daughter to breakfast once a month for at least 6 years now.  I have only missed the Sunday morning breakfast dates with her when I have been away from home.  I started these 1 on 1 breakfasts with each of my kids in hopes that we would develop an emotional connection early in their lives.  If we can develop these early connections, then when they are in the midst of the teenage years, we will have a foundation in our relationship in order to have good conversations about some of those hard teenage conversations…  you know…

I have written my ideas about connecting with my oldest daughter before.  I call her my little sweetpea.

This last Sunday we went about our normal routine.  We got up and walked to our local Dunkin Donuts, paid for breakfast and coffee, then walked to Church.  All in all about a mile and a half.

When we got to the Church, we sat down on one of the rail ties that is used to delineate the parking areas.  Makes for a pretty good little bench.  She got to go to a friends house on Saturday for a few hours and she loved it.  I was asking her questions and just “following the emotion” in what she was saying which lead us to talk about her and being shy.  I learned several things that morning.

1)  She told me she is shy because other people are so nice to her and she doesn’t know how to say Thank You.  We talked about this one and what she is really saying is that she feels as though she cannot repay people for being so nice to her, and that if she cannot repay their kindness to her, they will stop being kind.

2) She thinks that she has nice stuff, but not as nice as other peoples stuff, and when these other people see the kind of stuff that she has, they will think that she is not a good girl and that is why she does not have nice stuff.

I expected to hear her tell me that she thinks people will think she is ugly, mean, stinky, boring, etc.  I was ready to tell her what I think about her regarding those things.  I was a bit blown away when I heard that she is afraid that she cannot repay the debt of kindness and grace that others have given her.  Before rooting around in this though, I decided to just keep asking questions and helping her put into words what she was feeling.

I asked her if somebody she knew told her that her stuff was not as nice as theirs or that she was not as nice as them.  (I think “nice” is a bad word but that is what she was saying… I’ll write about that later.)  She immediately… as in with no pause or break to think about it…  tells me that she was picking blackberries with a little girl from our neighborhood in Washington along with a couple other kids.  This other girl announced to the rest of the kids that when she starts making a clicking sound with her mouth, they should hold her hands behind her back.  This sound, she said, was a warning that she was about to go get a knife from her house and cut the head off of my little sweetpea.

I remembered this incident.  I remembered having to intervene with these 2 little girls in the past.  They both had little attitudes while playing together and I would get on to both of them from time time.  I also remember seeing a very manipulative and mean spirit from this other girl.  I figured it was just little girl attitude, just like mine has sometimes, and didn’t worry about it.  It is good for my kids to face those kinds of people so that they can learn how to interact with folks who aren’t all sunshine and butterflies.

The rest of the conversation went swimmingly.

She ended up sitting on my lap, we talked for a while after that and then went into the gym to play a pool ball shuffleboard kind of game.

I felt great because I was able to intervene in my daughter’s life early on in order to root out some of the damage done to her little soul and to affirm that she really is a good and sweet girl.

I felt great because, after 6 years of breakfasts in which I sat thinking about the rest of my day, wiping syrup off of little hands and cinnamon and sugar off of little dresses, drinking coffee from fast food chain cups, wondering if there is a better way to lay these foundations, wondering if I should have started these breakfasts a little bit later…  a bridge was built into her heart upon a solid foundation… of donuts and coffee, pancakes and chocolate milk.

 

To Evict or Not To Evict

In case you didn’t know, I bought a house years ago when I was stationed in North Carolina.  My plan was to bounce back and forth between the Marine Corps and local Navy shore commands for the rest of my career.

God and the Navy had other plans.

So now I am a landlord and have been for a few years now.  We have had some really good renters and some not so good renters.  We had one set of renters who trashed our house before leaving.  When I heard about that, I asked what recourse I had.  The answer…

We will annotate it on his credit report.

My heart sank.  I thought all was lost.  This clown trashes my house, leaves me with the bill, moves out, and all I can do is have a mark put against his credit.  About 4 months after this happened, I got a call from my property management office.  They said the guy called from Afghanistan and wanted to know what he needed to do to get this off of his credit history.  Apparently he was not able to find a place for his family to live since he moved out of my house.  His wife and kids had been couch surfing the whole time.  He got deployed and discovered that the reason his applications had been denied for housing was because another property management company put a black mark on his name.  The system worked.  He paid what we asked and we had the property management company take their mark off of his credit.

Last month our renter was almost 25 days late on his rent.  He paid, but man was it late.  I found out today that he is not able to pay his rent this month.  Bummer.

I met this guy when I was driving across North Carolina.  He was so thankful that he had a place to live.  He gave me a long tale about the rough cards he had been dealt and was excited to finally have a place that was safe for him and his family so that he could put the pieces of his life back together.  I felt as though I was helping to provide for his family.

I have found myself praying for this guy.  I pray that my house would be a safe place for him and his family, that it would be a blessing in his life as he recovers from his past.

Now I find myself in a position where I will not be receiving any rent.  My property management company contacted me to let me know how much it would cost to file the eviction papers.

I cannot afford my mortgage without getting his rent money (I am not asking for money here… yet… LOL), but I also don’t want to put him out on the curb yet.  According to my management company, he has said he has the ability to pay for all fees and missed rent at the beginning of next month.

I decided to not file eviction paperwork.  I know… I know…  Emotions and Business don’t always go well together.  I might end up regretting it, then again, I might not.

If he does not pay his rent at the agreed upon time next month, then I will file the paperwork.

What would you have done?

 

Just a Busy Life

I set the tone for this blog as one in which I just talk about random stuff, as though you are sitting next to me in the cockpit of a small airplane as we fly across some unknown mountainous jungle.  All of a sudden I get all serious, start focusing on flying because the weather got rough and completely forgot about you!  I am so sorry…

I actually did not forget about y’all!  I have wanted to get on and post for a while.  I feel this pressure that says I need to post something long.  I do not have time to write anything long, so I don’t write.

But I miss writing.  I did not expect to miss it, but I do.

I am now about 4 months into my training.  I am going to school in Groton CT to become a US Navy Submarine Independent Duty Corpsman.  School is intense.  I usually leave my house around 0615 and return between 1830 and 1930 each evening.  I spend more time in my classroom than I do in my own house.  I see the men in my class WAY more than I see my own wife and kids.

We receive instruction in the traditional Navy manner from 0700 to 1530 with a 2 hour break for lunch and PT.  By “traditional Navy manner” I mean in the same way that you would take a drink from a fire hose.  We have covered the entire Radiation Health program, Preventive Medicine, NAVOSH (think Navy OSHA), Medical Department Admin, Supply, Medical Department Maintenance, and Intro to Lab.  Rumor is we start Anatomy and Physiology next week… we cover it in 2 days!  They say they can turn me into a competent Lone Medical Provider on one of the great hunters of the deep in a short 14 months…  Next time I come up for air, I’ll let you know!

While participating in normal classroom activities during the day, I have an instructor assigned to me as a Mentor who answers my questions and gives me tasks.  He pretends to be my CO, XO, COB…  he pretents to be everybody of importance in my world as a Submarine IDC.  I have a handful of medical records for my crew (all make believe of course), and I have to operate as though I am currently serving in an IDC capacity while going through school.  My mentor assigns tasks that must be completed.  In case there are any future SubIDCs reading this, I will not be divulging the secrets from behind the curtain, but you can guess at the details.  By the time the course is finished, I will be doing water testing, galley inspections, all medical reporting for accidents and injuries, gas free (making sure the air in a space is safe to breathe), sick call, narcotics inspections, and so on and so on… all while sitting in class from 0700 to 1530.  That 2 hour break I mentioned earlier for lunch and PT turns into about 45 minutes for PT, eat at my desk while doing paperwork, and then brace for the afternoon lectures.

We took 3 tests last week.  We were scheduled for 4 this week, but 1 got pushed to next week…  Intense.

 

And I am enjoying it so much.  I know I know, I must be a glutton for punishment.  I do miss seeing my family and spending time at home, don’t get me wrong, but I really REALLY love the challenge… the game… the stress.  They say they set this school up in order to simulate the lifestyle of a SubIDC as much as possible so that we are not shell shocked when we hit the fleet.  I can only hope so!

 

Anyway… School is going well.

 

I will post shorter posts in order to keep in touch.

I also recognize that, if this is how life will be for me for the next 5 or 6 years, and I have a desire to communicate with and influence people, then I had better figure out how to balance these things in my life!

Wish me luck!

 

 

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